News broke that her latest album sold more copies in four days that Ed Sheehan’s latest album sold in seven months. Swift has, over time, amassed a large and borderline rabid fan base, who would likely buy her album in droves. Many musicians have loyal followings. Songwriter Tom Waits, who in his experimental phase was nearly unlistenable, still sold records to his very loyal fans (I have a complete collection).
But Swift, understanding better than most how social media and the streaming music markets work, leveraged them all to sell over a million albums in less than a week. Some of it was traditional marketing strategy and some was exploiting new channels to drive demand.
Swift’s fans stream music. It is the first, and often only mode in which millennials consume music.
Artists both love and hate streaming services. You can reach millions of people who would have never otherwise encountered your songs. This works well for people going up the ladder of success. For people at the top, it isn’t such a good deal. Due to the aged structure of the music business, streamed songs are profitable for songwriters and record labels, but not so much for performers. Since many people who stream music do not buy albums, the artist suffers. One famous rap singer claims he doesn’t make enough off of streaming to buy a sandwich.
This is where Swift used old fashioned loss-leader marketing and her fan base to exploit the new rules of the game.
After a series of threats about not allowing her songs to be streamed, she put four tunes from the new album onto the streaming services. This let her fan base taste the new music … but only some of it. When the full album was released for purchase (but not streaming) her fans grabbed over a million copies instantly. Swift got the performance share of the album sales, and a lot of associated media buzz.
Swift created leverage (fan base) over time, seeded the market (four songs for streaming) and generated a false sense of scarcity (which elevated demand). All classic marketing strategies, and all executed in the new world of streaming media to sell old-fashioned albums.
Can’t say I care for Taylor Swift’s music, but her marketing skills have me snapping my fingers.]]>
Uber’s image has taken a beating. A shellacking. A bloody thumping. And it started long ago.
I’m one of the few humans who finds nothing to like about Las Vegas. But when I’m reluctantly in town, I use Lyft to shuttle around. Upon occasion, the Lyft driver will also have an Uber sticker in the windshield. I always ask them who they like working with better, and why.
In a word, they think Uber is a hard-nosed, cheap outfit, difficult to work with. Okay, that was more than a word – but their dislike for Uber is palpable. In fact, they would rather drive for Lyft but they still bow to Uber’s market dominance.
Which is fading.
Where did Uber’s bad reputation begin? It appears to have started at the top, where all corporate culture begins. From there, the next rung of management generated similar modes of internal and external disgruntlement, which flowed sewage-like down from there.
A company’s brand is the sum of every interaction it has with people (customers, the media, investors, etc.). This means every interaction, from every employee, counts – how the receptionist answers the phone, how the CEO talks about sexual harassment in public, how a driver discusses their relationship with the company. It is all counted toward the global image of a firm.
Branding, then, begins with corporate culture (and if you want the best review of how to craft your corporate culture, check out Ray Zinn’s book Tough Things First). In Uber’s case, at least by media accounts, the fish rotted from the head down. Uber’s corporate culture was all about growth, and nothing about humanity. Hence, over time and numerous interactions, Uber earned a brand as an inhumane company.
All this time Lyft was driving a brand of fun, happy drivers, and pink mustaches.
Silicon Strategies Marketing wrote the definitive definition of branding:
“Branding is making the market think and feel what you want them to think and feel about you and your products.”
We could ask, “What did Uber want the market to think and feel, and did their top-down actions drive that brand definition?” I suspect you can ignore the first part of the question, as the second part overruled it.
When we coach companies on branding, we drive home the point that the brand must first be defined, then it must be lived. The two cannot be separated. If it is not defined, it will develop accidentally. If if is defined but not lived, you will achieve an unintended brand.
Uber is doing backflips to find footing after numerous public exposures showing generally unpopular activities, from abusing their own drivers to electronically tracking their competition. All this added to the current Uber brand, which their transitional management must correct. Yet they cannot correct the brand until they correct the culture, and it takes as much time – maybe longer – to undo a bad brand than to build a good one.]]>
Among musicians, Moog – the storied innovator and maker of synthesizers – is iconic. This despite the company having once been sold, the buyer disfranchising Moog’s engineering team, then going under, then being revived by the founder (Bob Moog) who later passed away. In an age where digital, software controlled synthesizers are much more versatile than Moog’s analog gear, Moog is growing. Mainstream musicians and Hollywood studios clamor for their products. It is a sign of coolness for a road musician to have at very least a Minimoog on stage.
Key to Moog’s revival was the brand itself. This is not as simple as it sounds. After selling the original company, Bob Moog lost the right to call any of his gear “Moog”. He resorted to etching is signature onto the visible surface of his newer devices, though he eventually won back the right to use his family name as a brand name.
Moog was an innovator. The “modern” electronic music industry was largely launched by Moog and some others in the 1960s, and fed a bit of the psychedelic and progressive rock music of the era (though oddly, The Monkeys released the first album that used a Moog synthesizer). Moog did what was needed to make synthesizers popular with working musicians; they were built like war machined (road worthy), gave musicians great latitude in sound control, and they were clean sounding.
It was this attention to the needs of their target market that made Moog “must have” gear. It was this brand image that allowed Moog to survive through an always changing music industry, the sell and rebirth of his company, and to grow again in the 21st century. Sound, engineering, and sound engineering.
Central to Moog’s customer buzz and formal marketing is story telling (notable that “legacy” is a main menu item on their web site). Much of marketing is storytelling, be it a customer case study, a corporate backgrounder, or even a product brochure. Moog is growing in no small part because they are able to tell multiple types of stories – the legend, the history, the current headliners who use their products – to amplify their brand. Their corporate offices are practically wallpapered with Moog history (the photo of George and Ringo inspecting gear is memorable) and their artist relations manager combs for current music idols who rely on Moog equipment.
Part of the story is the untold story. To maintain the quality that made Moog legendary among working musicians, everything (aside from some printed circuit board work) happens under the same roof. The support team is steps away from the engineering squad so that any trending repair works goes into improving product design. Marketing, sales and support can easily and openly commune. Even photography and video work are done in the same offices (which is very useful when a headliner on tour comes through town and can be persuaded to demo gear in the video vault, which takes us back to storytelling).
It might have been tempting to Moog at various times to design cheaper gear, more consumer oriented instruments, offshore to Chinese manufacturing … in short, everything Silicon Valley focuses on. But Moog knows its own legend, and how to multiply the effect. It might have been a fleeting thought to go digital, but staying analog was their origin and now their differentiator.
A brand can be stretched only so far before it breaks. Moog will not break.]]>
This was actually uttered by the CEO of a tech startup when an early adopter customer was unsatisfied with the product and wanted to cancel their contract. The lesson herein is that this company is still alive, is thriving, and dominates their industry; and the customer still tells the story to peers … who buy the product.
It was a most authentic statement. Here, the CEO was understanding about the customer’s desires, and the limitation of his corporate cash flow, but also the need to make things right. He may have lost a sale, but he built a corporate reputation concerning authentic relationships.
Authenticity has always been a valued part of a brand. Now it is as critical as a heart.
People once allowed a lot of slop from corporations in terms of integrity (doing the right thing even when nobody is looking). But as mass media and then social media roared to life, companies that said one thing and did another were excoriated. In recent times, this includes the likes of Volkswagen in the wake of their fudging pollution test results.
Authenticity has many elements, and trust (belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something) is just one element. Of the sundry definitions for authenticity, for marketing purposes we’ll use “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” If your business’s brand is one of a heartless corporate cyborg, people may still trust you if you consistently act as one. But if your logo has butterflies and bunny rabbits, yet you lay waste to entire rain forests while harvesting raw materials, you will be rejected.
Which brings us to millennials, the next super-sized set of consumers, and the ones currently with the largest household discretionary budgets. Here are some scary realities about these buyers:
No segment of the consumer market has ever demanded more authenticity from brands than millennials, and so few companies are delivering. Yes, many enterprises claim authenticity, and create expensive advertising to promote it. But walk into their stores, try to return items via their websites, and check what is being said about them online, and the story can be very different.
As we have mentioned (endlessly) before, every customer/vendor touchpoint is an instance of brand interaction. When your sales clerks, your web designers, and your tech support agents are not fully vested and trained in authentic care of the customer, you lose. With millennials, you lose big.
Set your corporate culture, your training programs, and your internal incentives accordingly.]]>
A report by Richard Edelman surveys people from countries around the globe to see who they trusted or not. Trust in government is low, but then again no sane person really trusts that much concentrated power. Trust in the media has plummeted as alleged journalists have removed their masks to expose their unmade partisan and ideological faces. Only businesses and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) score above the 50% mark, and they do so with no margin for error.
All relationships are built on trust. If you don’t believe that, go buy a candy bar and think about the layers of trust incorporated in a simple purchase. You trust the maker of the candy bar not to poison you, which means you trust their trust in agricultural and chemical suppliers. You trust the store to not sell you past-dated products, and you trust the cashier to make correct change. There is a lot of trust in snack food.
Any company selling any product has to be trusted. The more trust consumers have in a brand, the easier the sale and the higher the margins that can be charged. Companies with no public trust seldom live very long.
Trust is a key marketing job, which is odd since most people distrust marketers.
Trust is a belief system, and as such, it is no different than religion. You choose to believe what you believe, and marketing’s job is to guide you to that belief.
For marketing, creating a belief system is an additive process. You create belief through convincing one person at a time that your product will do something desirable. Over time, a critical mass of people will adopt this belief in your company and products, and the force of the belief system will amplify itself.
Of the most trusted brands, we see familiar names with strong beliefs, which may or may not be justified. People trust Southwest Airlines and Benadryl allergy medicines. They believe Southwest will transport them for little money, on time, and crash-free. People trust Benadryl will keep them from sneezing on their dates.
The point is that people will buy from trusted firms more readily because people believe they will get what they are paying for, and perhaps more. I have been on both delayed and canceled Southwest flights, but that does not rewrite the basic trust equation. I know I can get generic Benadryl, but when my wife was needing the medication, I got the brand name anyway.
A lack of trust has the opposite effect. If you lose public trust, you may lose your company. Marketers (and CEOs, who are also on the low-trust list) need to make trust a central part of their public outreach. The CEO needs to instill a duty to trustworthiness throughout the entire organization, from manufacturing to sales to support.
Marketing needs to communicate trustworthiness. There is a reason British Petroleum (BP) has a logo that looks like the sun, a flower and a salad. It is also the reason people mocked the logo after the great BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The logo was designed, in part, to project trustworthiness. It said in part “We care about the environment.” The handling of the oil spill said otherwise.
Decide what your customers need to trust about you. If you make cars, does your market want to believe you make them safe, fast, sexy? Do all your communications reflect the belief the market wants to have about you? Add this to your wall chart of daily marketing affirmations.]]>
The untempered M.O. of startups today is growth hacking. This is a work- and risk-intensive system that is, according to Wikipedia, “A process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business.”
The key word is “experimentation”. Experiments are conducted to discover the unknown. Hence, the goal of growth hacking is to discover the best way to grow your company when the path to growth is vague.
The problem is that the right paths are often known, or at least 90% of the bad paths can be eliminated before the first marketing dollar is spent. Traditional strategy development never picks the perfect plan on the first try, but it does typically find a low-risk path with very probable results.
Silicon Valley and the global tech community have waded into the deep end by applying growth hacking – a system that is necessary for new markets with unknown issues – to markets that they can quite easily map and thus define rational go-to-market strategies. Some start-ups waste a couple of years and hundreds of thousands of venture capital dollars in experiments for which, at a later date, someone in the company will say “Well, that was dumb!”
What every founder needs to do is first map their markets. Understand to the best degree possible the buyers, their motivations and how they prefer to learn about products such as yours. Once you do this, ask yourself “Do I know 60% or more of what I need to know in order to start selling?” If so, then growth hacking is a waste of human energy and VC cash. Colin Powell, the general who led the first war against Iraq and saved the Kuwaiti nation, said “Study until you know 60% of what you need to know, then go with your gut.”
Don’t believe your market is so new and disruptive that it is unknowable. Most likely if isn’t.]]>
But it isn’t just your boss. It is your market that goes from utter disbelief to passionate involvement over time. Marketing’s job it to short circuit the disbelief/belief gap and reduce the time to mass market acceptance.
It ain’t easy. If it was, then anyone could do it.
Seth Godin recently opined on the topic, and provided a graph (we prettied it up) which shows that in the short-run, ideas are not warmly met by everyone. Yes, a small set of early adopters “gets it”, but most of the market fails to see the value of any new product, including yours. If the idea has any mass market merit at all, in time everyone in the market will “get it”.
But not every company has the time to wait on an entire market to wise-up. One of marketing’s many jobs is to compress the time from product introduction to a universal belief that the product is good, valuable, and so popular that not buying it is a display of mental instability bested only by running for elected office.
In the graph above, the obvious element is the difference between early adopters and laggards – the people who get it and the people who don’t. You can spend a ton of cash and blather until your continence turns a lovely shade of cyan and still not get a market to accept your product. But people who get it can and often do so for free.
How does an idea become common knowledge – the right end of the graph? By being “common”. Good ideas – and even some bad ones – reach a critical mass of acceptance. When they do, the knee of the curve is reached and the market self-perpetuates the belief. The idea appears to be universal, and thus is accepted as such. Al Gore promoted anthropogenic global warming as “settled science” in order to make the idea appear universal (if it was or wasn’t was immaterial – he had to make the public believe it was).
How does a marketer make buyers reach this point of assumed mass consensus? One reason social media is such a popular marketing tool is that it creates the illusion of peer-level consensus. “People” visuals in promotions create the illusion that real humans (not just stock photo models) believe in the product. “Booth babes” that can attract and hold visitors at a trade event indirectly create a sense of broad consumer interest.
The mechanics of these different approaches are that they tap into a common belief system – that being part of a group is better than being a disgruntled dissenter. Humans are pack animals, and though we may choose to run with different packs, only über eccentrics are not in one pack or another. Social media to sell apps, photos of families to promote gout medicines, and even smoking hot women in skimpy outfits roping in tech tradeshow geeks are part of stimulating pack mentality. These are forms of “getting it”, being part of a group, and sharing some innate belief. This is essential to short circuiting mass acceptance, be it for environmental consciousness or toothpaste.]]>
I spent a pleasent hour at Draper University speaking to students about the top three ways Silicon Valley startup founders crash their own companies. Draper kindly provided video from the event, and you can watch the whole presentation.
For a full course on the basics of marketing strategy, get a copy of our book The Start-up CEO’s Marketing Manual at Amazon.com.
(if you have technical difficulties watching the embeded video above, it is available at YouTube at https://youtu.be/Fly_JceiuWY).]]>
Are Facebook, Twitter and Google corrupting their brands by being socially underhanded?
Of late, both Facebook and Twitter have been publicly accused of censoring non-left-of-center content. Now Google admits to blocking advertisements due to Google’s perception of social desirability. In each instance, these corporate goliaths, which together control the flow of most online human interaction, either admit to or are accused of filtering legal content based on their perception of what should or should not be.
The new media is aping the old media, and runs the risk of the same fate.
Regardless of if you agree or disagree with the filtered content, the troubling aspect is that large corporations are deciding what content their users should and should not see. Outside of endangering activities (e.g. terrorism, child porn, congress convening), the Internet has been libertarian in nature. The consumer, now provided with ample choices for everything, could consume the content they preferred.
Herein is where Google, Facebook and Twitter are engineering their own potential downfall by going against their inherited brand.
Perception is reality, and consumers perceive the Internet as being open (and in most ways, it is). They also perceive Internet companies as adhering to that openness. To censor content, aside from normal usage policy and elements either illegal or endangering, goes against this umbrella brand. If the accusations against Twitter and Facebook are remotely true, then they stand against their own brand, the general brand of Internet companies and their own users.
And nothing will hurt you more than contradicting your own brand.
Google is no better, though at least they were more open. Google decided to ban advertisements for payday loan companies on moral principles. These legally chartered and openly operating companies may not be a great deal, but they are part of the overall mechanisms of commerce. Google is in effect picking and choosing which legal businesses will succeed and fail based on their own moral declarations.
This violates not only the basic openness of the Internet, but also Google’s pledge to not do evil. After all, who is Google to decide if a payday loan is inappropriate for everyone. I personally know a cancer patient who, due to the crushing financial weight of medical treatments, occasionally needs to get a cash advance, and these establishments are an avenue he has used.
The Internet has proven one thing: what was a great service yesterday is a has been today (have you updated your MySpace page lately?) People not only have choices, but can engineer alternatives for a very low entry cost. Not Facebook, Twitter, nor Google are immune to rejection for violating their brand and that of the Internet.
Google has now been accused of politicizing search. The evidence is compelling and worrisome.
The abbreviated story is that predictive search returns on Google are being modified to not reflect what people are most often seeking in regards to one of the presidential candidates. In short, Google appears to be suppressing bad news about a candidate, allegedly because Google CEO Eric Schmidt is actively supporting said candidate.
This would be the most troubling of all these infractions of Internet openness culture — to misuse Google’s market dominance to rig an election. For examples of the search result editing, see http://freebeacon.com/politics/here-are-10-more-examples-of-google-search-results-favorable-to-hillary/.
Facebook was caught in deleting one nearly identical post. The two posts were nearly identical, except for one word. That word represented either a left/right bias about an international issue. Facebook deleted the right-of-center post (they bowed to pressure when a [former] member foreign government got involved).]]>
The misalignment between sales and marketing is legendary to the point of cliché. The reasons are both obvious and not-so-obvious, yet all distill down to perspective. Neither sales nor marketing can change their perspective, nor would that be desirable. But one of the two teams can adapt. This will not end the misalignment, but it will increase profits.
A definition of the word perspective is “the faculty of seeing relevant data in a meaningful relationship.” The gotcha word is “relevant”. What is relevant to a salesperson struggling to make their quarterly quota is different than what is relevant to a CMO trying to enhance a brand.
People with different perspectives rarely unite. Airlift a rural bible-belt citizen into a San Francisco transgender convention, and there will be little shared perspectives at first (though some begrudged concessions may occur after chitchat and cocktails). The perspectives not shared between sales and marketing are numerous and profound. Yet only one side has the ability and leisure to obtain a little of the perspective of the other side.
Where are the differences? A short list includes:
|Short-term focus||Long-term focus|
|Art (selling)||Science (strategy)|
|High-context (people-to-people)||Low-context (broadcast)|
|Urgent (make your numbers)||Passive (enduring success)|
|Quality (sales ready leads)||Quantity (find then filter)|
Distilled a bit, we see that sales has a different perspective on both the relationship to the customer as well as his value to the organization. Phrased perhaps to curtly, sales closes deals and puts cash in the bank, and does so by the end of the quarter. Marketing tries to make the entire market want the company and the product. Narrow versus broad. Immediate versus extended. Tactical versus strategic.
This dichotomy explains things like why sales won’t complete their CRM entries (which feeds long-term marketing needs) and marketing won’t generate yet another piece of collateral for a tiny subniche.
Here is the big point. Sales cannot adapt to marketing. Certain small functions can be improved through coercion (such as sales completing their &^%#&^ CRM records). But sales cannot, and perhaps should not, be forced to see the world from marketing’s perspective. Sales people are hunters. Having them pay attention to every aspect of game management would keep them from bringing home dinner.
Marketing cannot be sales’ hand-and-foot servant either. Marketing needs to constantly think about the holistic nature of the market, product and buyers’ perspective. But marketing can adapt to sales, adding the perspective sales has to all the perspectives marketing studies (think of your sales team as yet another personae). By accepting that sales needs to be sold to, and that this begins with understanding their motivations, marketing can build a use case for the sales team.
Like any go-to-market strategy, this begins by understanding the customer and their major motivations (sales needs to close deals within a limited amount of time, and do so quarter after quarter). To do so, they need a whole product (sales ready leads and the right arsenal of sales tools). The product that marketing designs for sales is thus geared to meet their primary motivation. It does not have to meet every motivation (just as your real products don’t have to meet every need or want of your regular customers), but the big needs must be satisfied, and the small ones understood.
Delivering this is the first step to creating a relationship with your sales team as you would in creating a relationship between customers and your company. Only once that initial trust (sale) has been made, can the relationship be made deeper, and you can ask for more (such as completing those &^%#&^ CRM records).]]>